Photo: Matt Shifman
A visit to Old Friends Retirement Farm in Kentucky had been a high priority on my list of horse racing activities that I needed to complete. On a very cold and windy day, a few buddies and I were lucky enough to get a tour from Old Friends President, Michael Blowen. Thoroughbred retirement has always been very important to me and should be for everybody that makes a living or derives pleasure from racing.
Old Friends is one of the most high profile retirement facilities and its residents include an interesting mix of Kentucky Derby winners, Eclipse Award champions, record holders, claimers, and horses that were rescued from various dire situations.
I was particularly looking forward to meeting Rapid Redux who, if you remember, captured the attention of racing fans when he won 22 consecutive races at seven different tracks with seven different jockeys while running in every distance race from sprints to a mile and beyond. As a yearling, the son of Pleasantly Perfect sold as a yearling for $85,000.
The winning streak began on Oct. 13, 2010, at Penn National, a couple months after he was claimed for $6,250 by owner Robert Cole and trainer David Wells. These connections kept him from being claimed away by running almost exclusively in starter allowance races at tracks in the Mid-Atlantic. Rapid Redux was a four-year-old when the streak began and ended shortly after he became a six-year-old at Laurel Park. The achievement of this gutsy gelding made him the recipient of the Vox Populi award and a special Eclipse Award of recognition in 2012.
When we approached Rapid Redux in his paddock he has laying down to take a mid-morning nap and when he got up to say hello you could see that it was a bit of a struggle for him to move around on the ankles that had carried him to a career record of 42: 28-1-1 with earnings of $361,609. You can tell from the photo of us that he still has plenty of spirit.
photo by Scott Dick
In nearby paddocks you can find the Three-Year-Old Champion, Silver Charm, who barely missed the Triple Crown in 1997, and Touch Gold, who was the horse that defeated him in the Belmont Stakes. When we approached Silver Charm he was at the far end of his paddock. Blowen called his name and he didn’t respond until he changed it up and yelled, “Who’s the greatest race horse in the world?” Only then, Silver Charm looked up, bowed his neck, and sprinted all the way down to the fence to greet his fans.
The pairing is repeated in another pair of paddocks on the other side of the grounds where the 2002 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner War Emblem resides right next to Sarava who at 70-1 thwarted the Triple Crown honors of that Bob Baffert trainee.
When we returned to the farm office, it was great to hear Blowen’s assistant announce that Victor Espinoza had just called to say that he was in town and would be stopping by Old Friends that afternoon to visit War Emblem who was his first of three winners in the Run for the Roses.
If you consider yourself a fan of horse racing please think about making a contribution to a thoroughbred retirement facility like Old Friends. They depend on the support of the racing community to do their work and the size of the donation is not important. Your willingness to help is what is so essential. I know you will feel good when you send in the check.
Enjoy the video of our tour that was put together by HorseCenter producer, Brett Workman.